Here’s How Your Next Big Initiative Can Hurt You as a Leader

Despite your and your team’s best efforts, things don’t always go as planned.

The company may decide to penetrate a new market, but the economy elects not to cooperate.  No matter what you and your people do, the numbers aren’t met.  The efforts were gallant; unfortunately, the economy conspired against you.  The initiative is dead.

Maybe you began a large project at the direction of your boss.  Things are progressing well until leadership above you changes and so do the priorities. Suddenly the ‘big project’ is no longer important and is stopped in its tracks. You and your team did nothing wrong; things just changed. The project is dead.

These things happen; they are real; BUT they are not what I’m talking about.

What I’m referring to our initiatives that you start but lack the resources, focus, or energy to see to fruition. They are the ones that seemed like a good idea in the moment, but they never should have started in the first place. They are the ones where not only is the initiative dead, but your reputation as a leader is harmed along the way.

There are plenty of these types of initiatives.  I offer three commons ones to get you thinking about the initiatives.

1. Award or Recognition Programs

Organizations are riddled with dead or dying programs. Go into a restaurant and look around to see if they have an employee of the month plaque on the wall. All too often these programs are inconstantly maintained over time and the plaque on the wall saying Employee of the Month is a glaring reminder of this – you will may have gone a few months with a recipient listed, then a blank month or two, and finally the rest of the year filled in with awardee names.

What does this communicate to the restaurant’s employees and customers?

You got it. It says, “this was a good idea when we started it, but it really doesn’t matter that much!” Award and recognition programs can be good ideas, but they require time and attention.  Don’t start them unless you are willing to care and feed them.

2. Accountability Mechanisms

I’ve seen many leaders frustrated with a situation and implement an accountability mechanism to resolve the issue.  In turn, they create reports and meetings that no one truly owns and are eventually abandoned.

If you are frustrated, think twice before you say, “we are going to report on this every week in our meeting” or “I want a report on this first thing each morning.” It might feel good to put your foot down in the moment, but you might end up stepping in it.

3. Technology Solutions

Technology can be amazing.  I’ve seen someone present a solution to a group of leaders and everyone falls over themselves with excitement.  It literally looks like one technology drive solution can answer to all of their problems.

It seems like candy – and who doesn’t like candy.

The problem is when you go to the store and buy candy, you typically don’t think of the energy required to grow and harvest sugar cane, mix all of the ingredients, produce the product, etc.  It is a difficult and costly endeavor.  The same can be true for technology solutions. Don’t start them if you don’t plan to see them through – half of a computer program is of little value.

I wish you all the best as you work to implement programs that matter and invest the resources to stick with them.

Photo by BBH Singapore on Unsplash